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June 4, 2013 | by  | in Features |
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Boston Bombings

Since the Boston Marathon bombings happened on 15 April, dozens of people have asked me what it was like to be in the middle of a national tragedy. Technically, I wasn’t in the middle. I was with friends about a mile away from the finish line in Copley Square, walking towards Kenmore Square to meet up with more people. Around us were hordes of people cheering on the runners and enjoying one of the first warm days of the year.

I was not close enough to hear the explosion. The panic felt at the finish line did not reach the section of the route I was near. I did not know anything had happened until my mother, who lives in California, called me 15 minutes after the initial blast to ask if I was okay. It was different than her other calls; it was urgent, serious, and almost as if she had expected something was wrong and was relieved to hear otherwise. She told me to get home as quickly as I could and turn on the news.

It was an odd feeling to be truly scared in Boston. Before the bombing, I felt safer walking back from the library to my off-campus apartment alone at three o’clock in the morning than I did when I took my dog out at night in my sleepy, suburban hometown. I’m essentially among peers all day, every day—half of the city’s population is composed of university students who attend one of the 53 colleges in the Boston area. I would maintain awareness of my surroundings, but I would not make a beeline towards home.

The fear that followed the bombing felt like it mostly stemmed from the uncertainty surrounding the event. The constant, “Who did this and why?” plagued most conversations I had for a few weeks. At Boston University, everyone was edgy and anxious. Suddenly, any mildly strange occurrence was immediately suspicious and warranted investigation. If anyone saw anything, they absolutely said something.

The day after the bombing, the Boston University Police Department sent out an emergency alert through the University’s system to warn of a suspicious package left outside the library where I had been working on a project. It was fight-or-flight to me; I felt like I had to walk home immediately. I did so without listening to music or letting my mind wander out of fear for my safety. Law enforcement officials were everywhere while the search for the suspect or suspects continued, and although their presence was necessary, it exacerbated the fear and anxiety on campus.

That Thursday night, I received a message through the university alert system about the MIT police officer, Sean Collier, who had been shot and killed. I didn’t connect the bombing with the shooting at first; both scared me, but the events seemed disconnected. I went to bed before the story had fully developed, emotionally exhausted from the constant news coverage. What I woke up to a few hours later was, for lack of a better word, insane. I had messages from BU urging me to stay inside, friends asking me if I was okay, if I was watching the news, if I knew what was going on.

When the lockdown ended and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured, it felt like all of Boston breathed a sigh of relief. However, the security measures enacted following the bombings have remained in place. Bomb-sniffing dogs were present at BU’s commencement ceremony, and large bags had to be checked at tables before entering the venue. Graduating students had to carry their caps and gowns into the venue and change into them in their lines.

Interestingly enough, some people seem bitter or angry about the increase in security at university events. When the security protocol regarding commencement was announced, many students complained about how long all of the screenings would take. Others felt that this was an overreaction, and that the bombings were an individual event enacted by two people and would not happen again.

I understand the frustration that extra security creates. I remember going to the airport after 9/11 and seeing how much tighter and more intense security was. The lines were insanely long, and the process felt like it took hours to nine-year-old me. What I do not understand, however, is how such measures don’t feel worth it. How someone can whine and moan about long lines and extra security at the ceremony without pausing to think about the possibility of a repeat attack. Without extra security, something like the Marathon bombings could easily happen again. I would much rather sacrifice an extra 30 minutes out of my day and get to the arena early and have my bag searched than live in the kind of anxiety that the tragedy caused again.

When I left Boston for the summer, the memorial for the bombing victims that had been set up in Copley was still standing, and I have a feeling that fresh flowers will still be there when I return in August. The tragedy will always be a part of my classmates’ and my experience at university. Its effects will be felt at large University events and it will be remembered at the Boston Marathon for years to come. However, while the bombings can’t and won’t ever be forgotten, the city of Boston will recover.

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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